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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise to also address this most recent backroom
gang agreement--the Schumer-Corker-Hoeven amendment we will be voting on in just a little while.

This amendment is clearly filled with lots of sort of nice shiny objects to try to attract Republican votes. It is clearly supposed to be about border security. But my fundamental concern is simple. I believe this amendment is designed to pass the bill. I do not believe it is designed to truly fix the bill. In that sense, I am concerned this is a figleaf border security amendment--again, all about passing the bill, not truly fixing it.

I say that for two simple reasons, the two basic flaws in the underlying bill that this amendment does nothing to address. First of all, the amendment, as the bill, is amnesty now, enforcement later, maybe. Secondly, on the enforcement piece--which the authors of this amendment are arguing for so strenuously--there is no metric about actual effect, actual achievement. The only metric is spending money. We all know the U.S. Government, the Federal Government, is great at spending money. It has never been better at spending money than under this current administration.

But if that were all that mattered, then we would have a rip-roaring economy with unprecedented growth. If that were all that mattered, then we would have the best educational system on the planet. If that were all that mattered, we would have solved problems such as violent crime and many others. But the metric cannot be spending money. The metric has to be achieving security, achieving some reasonable level of border and workplace security.

I am also very concerned about the backroom deal and the process that got us here. I think it is important for the American people to know exactly what happened in the last few weeks and, in particular, at the end of last week. About 350 amendments were filed to this bill. They covered all sorts of topics--certainly including every important enforcement matter. Many of these amendments struck to the very core of the Gang of 8 compromise bill.

As Ranking Member Grassley has noted, the Judiciary markup was an open process in which nearly all amendments were considered in a fair, decent manner. However, as Senator Grassley also noted earlier today, on the floor, it is a very different atmosphere and the fix apparently is in. We are seeing that on the floor. The fix seems to be in--another closed-door agreement, loaded with ideas that have been accepted for ``yes'' votes to ensure the support of particular Members.

The amendment is 1,100 pages long--longer, I believe, than the original bill--and because of this development, the full and fair floor amendment process has come to a grinding halt.

That is exactly what is broken with the Senate. Rather than doing the people's business out in the open--with floor amendments, with debate--instead, so-called masters of the universe have huddled together, again, behind closed doors, to hammer out a secret agreement, again, virtually cutting off floor amendments and trying to pass the bill.

In 2007--the last time a major immigration bill came to the floor--we had 46 rollcall votes on amendments. This time around we have had only 9, and now we have the prospect of cutting off the amendment process--9 out of 350 amendments filed, 2.5 percent of the filed amendments.

Again, this is what is wrong, in the eyes of the American people, with Congress, with the Senate. This is one of the things I came to change. I came to the Senate to work--developing and introducing legislation, working hard in the appropriate committees, voting, offering floor amendments, voting on those. But these gang deals, negotiated behind closed doors, particularly when they cut off and muffle the amendment process, are not that sort of work.

Again, the masters of the universe have conspired among themselves. They have allowed certain Members into that back negotiating room, undoubtedly for the price of a ``yes'' vote. Worst of all, this threatens to completely shut off the open, fair amendment process.

That is why this morning I coauthored a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid, with 13 of my colleagues, addressing this very problem. In the letter we state clearly:

We believe that there should be, AT A MINIMUM, this same number of roll call votes--

That is as in the 2007 debate--

on serious, contested floor amendments on the Gang of Eight's immigration bill. This can clearly be accomplished this week with a little leadership and coordination through one or more compact series of 10-minute votes with senators seated at their desks.

Continuing with the letter, we say:

Further, we will give our consent to any reasonable consent request if this is assured. This would specifically include replacing the one or two cloture votes and one final passage vote on the bill with one final passage vote with a 60-vote threshold late Thursday, as well as clearing all truly non-controversial amendments.

I hope all Members of this body look carefully at this bill we are going to vote on in about an hour regarding cloture. I hope all of us look hard at the details and recognize it does not change the core fundamental flaws of the underlying bill. Still, as in the underlying bill, the amnesty is first, virtually immediately, the enforcement is later, maybe. As in the underlying bill, there is no true metric of effectiveness, of enforcement bearing fruit. There is simply the metric of spending money, which the Federal Government can do very effectively. Surely, any Federal Government, particularly under the Obama administration, will pass that test with flying colors.

The American people do not want amnesty first. They want enforcement first. The American people do not have as a test of enforcement spending money. They have the same tests they have for important issues and challenges around their kitchen table and at their place of small business--results, actual results.

We should use those same tests. We should use that same approach. The American people get it. Why can't we? The American people also get the very closed backroom deal nature of the process that is going on. They want us to work. They want us to debate. They want us to propose. They want us to vote out in the open, not certain masters of the universe coming up with gang deals outside of here and then shutting down a full, open, free amendment process.

It is not too late. It is not too late to look clearly at this amendment and vote no. It is not too late to have an open amendment process on the floor this week. I urge all of my colleagues--Democrats and Republicans--to do just that.

With that, I yield back the floor.


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